How To Find The Right Pillow For Your Sleep Position

By Dr. Philip Cordova

March 13, 2024

Lack of quality sleep can contribute to various issues like stress, compromised immunity, and weight gain. If you find the right pillow, it will go a long way in helping you to achieve better sleep. For people dealing with neck pain, upper back pain, shoulder pain, and low back pain, achieving restful sleep can be particularly challenging.

Selecting the appropriate pillow is crucial for improving sleep quality. A subpar pillow may result in waking up with stiff muscles or spasms, while the right one offers much needed support.

Ready to start sleeping better and find the right pillow? Here are key features to consider when choosing the ideal pillow:

Material Matters

The vast array of pillow options at department stores might be overwhelming. Understanding the distinctions between fillings can simplify your selection process.

Regardless of the filling type, pillows come with varying quality ratings based on the materials used and their durability. Opt for the highest quality rating within your budget.

Down/Down Alternative Down

Down/Down Alternative Down pillows, commonly found in hotels, are light and soft. If allergic to down feathers, consider down alternative pillows made from synthetic materials. Some patients feel these pillows are low and flat enough to support them, but they’re not my favorite. These pillows work best for patients that sleep on their stomach (which is not recommended).

Wool and Cotton

Cotton and wool pillows are firmer, providing enhanced support and shape retention. They’re also hypoallergenic, resistant to dust mites, making them a suitable choice for allergy sufferers. These are the most common pillows in homes, but they don’t necessarily offer any additional help for different sleeping postures. You just get what you get on these, but a larger pillow would be recommended for side sleepers.

Memory Foam

Memory foam pillows contour to the sleeper’s shape, offering relief for neck and back pain. Some feature a contoured design for added support matching the spine’s curvature, this is particularly helpful for back sleepers. However, they tend to retain heat, potentially causing discomfort for hot sleepers.


Latex pillows, suitable for those avoiding animal products, offer mold resistance and a cooler feel compared to memory foam. If you’re going to go with route, you’ll want a contoured pillow to support your head and neck for back sleeping or a larger pillow to fill the space between your head and shoulder for side sleeping.

find the right pillow

Consider Your Sleeping Position

Your sleeping position influences the pillow type you should use:

Side Sleepers: Firm or extra-firm pillows maintain proper neck and back curvature. Memory foam or latex pillows are ideal for retaining shape and firmness. Most people sleep on their side, so having the right support is key here.

Back Sleepers: Opt for a slightly softer pillow to cradle your head. Individuals with sleep apnea may benefit from using multiple pillows to elevate their head.

Stomach Sleepers: Choose a softer, flatter pillow to avoid strain on the neck.

Adapting to Different Positions: Consider using multiple pillows or a curved pillow for individuals who change positions frequently during the night.

Replace Regularly Pillows should be replaced approximately every 18 months. Inspect visually for stains, tears, or fraying, and replace if necessary. Test the pillow’s condition by folding it in half – a good pillow will spring back into shape.

Find the right pillow and you can alleviate discomfort in the neck, back, and shoulders, contributing to improved sleep quality. However, it’s essential to recognize that a suitable pillow is only part of the solution to addressing sleep-related issues.

A well-maintained spine begins with a good chiropractic care program and can solve a lot of issues. Many patients have a closet full of pillows they can’t use, but they likely would have been fine with most of the pillows if their necks were working correctly.

Find the right pillow to support your neck, but don’t expect it to fix all of your neck and back issues.

Dr. Philip Cordova

About the author

Dr. Philip Cordova is a chiropractor in Houston, Texas. He grew up in Phoenix, Arizona and decided to become a chiropractor after hurting his back as a teenager and getting help from chiropractic care. He is speaker on health & posture. Click Here To Read His Full Bio

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